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Sitalkuchi firing: EC bars BJP leader for 48 hrs, notice to state chief

In its order, the Election Commission said Rahul Sinha's utterances were "provocative, mocked human life, could incite forces that could have law and order implications and, hence, violate the Model Code of Conduct (MCC)".

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |
Updated: April 13, 2021 6:41:57 pm
rahul sinha, Election Commission, Rahul Sinha news, election, West Bengal Assembly Elections 2021, BJP West Bengal, india news, indian expressBJP leader Rahul Sinha

A day after the Election Commission (EC) imposed a 24-hour campaigning ban on Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, the poll body debarred BJP leader Rahul Sinha for 48 hours for his comment that the Central forces should have killed more in Cooch Behar’s Sitalkuchi, but let his colleague Suvendu Adhikari off with a warning for insinuating that a vote for Banerjee was a vote for “mini Pakistan”.

The action initiated against Sinha is possibly the first time the EC has banned a political leader from electioneering without giving the person a chance to present his defence. In its order, the poll body said Sinha’s utterances were provocative, mocked human life, could incite forces, have law and order implications and violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

Ghosh was issued a notice for his alleged remarks that there would be “Sitalkuchi in several places”, after four people were killed in CISF firing in Cooch Behar during the fourth phase of voting on Saturday. He has been asked to respond to the notice and make his stand clear on his remarks by Wednesday morning.

Adhikari was let off after he reportedly said in his response to the EC’s show-cause notice that he didn’t indulge in personal attacks or make any derogatory remarks against any political leader. However, he assured the EC, he would be more careful in the future.

The poll body justified its action against Sinha, without giving him a chance to defend himself, citing “urgency of the matter”. Asked if this step had left the EC’s decision open to legal challenge, a senior officer told The Indian Express, “Then we will welcome such a challenge. We are trying to send a strong message that this level of discourse will not be tolerated.”

On April 12, campaigning in his constituency in Habra, Sinha had told reporters, “Not four, eight people should have been shot dead in Sitalkuchi. The Central forces should be issued a show-cause notice asking why they killed only four and not eight…Goons are trying to deprive people of their democratic rights. Central forces responded appropriately. If it happens again, they will answer again.”

The CISF had opened fire at a polling station in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district on April 10, while voting was underway, reportedly in self-defence after an attempt was made to snatch their weapons. Four persons, including an 18-year-old, were killed in the firing.

The TMC had subsequently lodged a complaint with the EC against “inflammatory, inciting statements” made by Sinha and said that he and his party colleague Dilip Ghosh were “instigating violence against the electorate in West Bengal”.

In its order against Banerjee, the EC cited her repeated jibes against Central forces and her appeal to minority voters to not divide their votes between parties. The EC said the West Bengal Chief Minister’s replies were unsatisfactory, and her remarks were “provocative” and could adversely affect the election process.

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